Viewing the plaque

July 5, 2011

If you are interested in seeing the memorial plaque, it is possible to call the day care center and arrange for a tour. Be prepared for a little heartache, though. The mosaic, which was designed to be seen in a large space, now makes up one wall of a small classroom. And the dedication text cannot be read because strips of paper have been taped to it.

I believe that the city intended for the galleria at Onterie Center to remain a permanent public space when it approved the building design in the 1980s. But when a new owner took over the building the commercial space was extended into the galleria. As a result, the wall with the memorial plaque for my father is now hidden inside the space of a large day care center. There is no indication in the building lobby that the plaque even exists.

The technical man

June 30, 2011

The second text is a quotation from my father. He was being interviewed by Engineering News-Record in 1971 for an article about his selection as ENR’s Man of the Year. While discussing his many influential innovations for high-rise design, he reminded the journalist that structures should help make people’s lives better, that technological advancement is not a goal in itself. He always kept this in mind, believing, for instance, that a tall building with a plaza can be preferable to a short, bulky building. What he said at the time of the interview, and what is written on the memorial plaque, is: “The technical man must not be lost in his own technology. He must be able to appreciate life; and life is art, drama, music, and most importantly, people.”

Onterie Center had two entrances, one for the residences and one for the retail/office space, connected by a lobby, or galleria. Chandra Jha had already planned to involve an artist from Barcelona, Juan Gardy-Artigas, in the galleria design to create a stunning mosaic tile floor. During construction Chandra added a mosaic memorial plaque for my father, also designed by Juan Gardy-Artigas.

Memorial plaque for Fazlur R. Khan

The mosaic is quite large, and includes two sections with text. One says:

In Memoriam

Dr. Fazlur Rahman Khan (4-3-29 – 3-27-82)

World-renowned structural engineer, whose lasting contributions to architecture illuminated all our paths. We dedicate this plaque with gratitude to Dr. Khan for his leadership in engineering practice which culminated in this structure, Onterie Center

–his final work.

The document printed for the dedication includes the ending:


James R. Thompson,  Governor, State of Illinois

Michael T. Woelffer, Director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs

Chandra K. Jha, for PSM International Corporation

Bruce J. Graham, for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill